Listening when you don’t care is hard, because of four reasons:
We want things to be easy—The word “easy” just means that, on our terms, the interaction of listening, requires nothing of us—or the minimal amount of emotional labor possible.
We want things to be our way—we are selfish. There’s nothing surprising about this. But what is surprising is the number of different covers we place on top of our selfish tendencies, in an attempt to conform to whatever behavior the social group demands.
We want interactions to be friction-free—this just means that, the more direct the communication—or the more direct we think the communication is—the easier it seems for us to engage in. And by the way, this also means that, as long as people agree with us, and things are our way, we have stasis and security.
We want to be right—this is the other part of selfishness in our communications, and like most parts of our interpersonal communications, it’s deeply internal.
Then there’re the adoption curve:
On any distribution for anything in the material world, or in the human experience, there are people who are early adopters (easily understood and understanding) there are people who are late adopters (barely understood, and barely understanding) and then there’s the vast bulge of people in the middle.
The people in the middle are those people who don’t really care if things are easy to understand, or hard to understand, they just want the communication to work, preferably for them, or their situation.
The trouble with the middle is that it’s where everyone believes that they are. In reality the bulge is heavy at the left side of the curve. Many of us are not really listening at all, because we’re not really caring at all…
At the heart of listening—rather than not listening, or only listening long enough to find out when we can jump in to refute whatever is being said—is emotional labor: caring unselfishly, delaying the gratification that comes from stating our point, engaging with the friction rather than seeking to reduce it, and abandoning the impulse to be right.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org